The U.S. bishops’ second annual Fortnight for Freedom—a period of prayer and fasting to raise awareness of challenges to religious liberty, both nationally and internationally—is planned for June 21 to July 4.
Celebrations in the archdiocese include Mass Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. in the chapel of the lower church of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, corner of Prince and Mulberry Street in Manhattan. Afterward, a presentation of the issues and a discussion with action steps will be held in the parish house across from the chapel at 263 Mulberry St.
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty will be recited at Masses and the Litany for Liberty will be prayed during periods of Eucharistic Adoration.
The website www.Fortnight4Freedom.org provides details of fortnight events and suggested activities for parishes and families, as well as fact sheets, educational resources and suggested prayers for the observance.
The site includes a study guide on the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae,” and quotes about religious freedom from the nation’s Founding Fathers and the writings of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Additionally, the archdiocese’s Fortnight for Freedom website is archny.org/news-events/freedom.
The fortnight occurs just weeks before Aug. 1, the date final rules take effect for implementing the federal contraceptive mandate, requiring most employers to provide contraceptive coverage for employees. The Catholic Church and other faith groups object to the requirement.
During the fortnight, the Supreme Court’s decisions on the definition of marriage may come, as the court is expected to issue rulings in late June on two same-sex marriage cases. One is a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative banning same-sex marriage, and the other is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“Here in New York, we’re facing the abortion expansion bill, which also will have very significant impact on the religious freedom of individuals and institutions,” said Edward Mechmann, coordinator for public policy and assistant director of the archdiocese’s Family Life/Respect Life Office.
“The fact that the bishops are sponsoring a religious liberty event every year now serves to highlight that these threats to religious liberty are not isolated incidents,” he added.
“It’s an ongoing struggle now in the United States to maintain our freedom to exercise our religion in public and to carry on our business in conformity with our religious values and to basically enjoy the freedoms that Americans have always taken for granted but which we can’t take for granted anymore.”
After prayer, “people need to inform themselves about what’s really going on here,” Mechmann said. “There are a number of very significant areas in which there is very grave conflict between our laws and some of the policies of our government, and our freedom.
“People need to educate themselves about the details and to see the big picture so they understand how all this fits together,” concluded Mechmann. “An educated lay population is the most important thing we can have right now so that they really appreciate why the bishops are taking this so seriously, why we’re asking people to take action and really what the future holds for us if we’re not vigilant and vigorous in defending our freedom.”
—Catholic News Service contributed to this report.